The Project Gutenberg EBook of Notre-Dame de Paris, by Victor Hugo This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions. Ombres”; in fiction, “Notre Dame de Paris” (); in the drama, “Le Roi s'Amuse, ” . Victor Hugo, in “Notre Dame,” was animated by a quite other spirit. After the. In 1 Victor Hugo again obtained the prize for his . 1 83 1, appeared his N otre- Dame de Paris co mpared to his description of Notre- Dame, and the m ys .
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PDF | Victor Hugo's Notre‐Dame de Paris () was translated for English readers as The Hunchback of Notre‐Dame in One year later, Quasimodo. Victor Hugo and NotreDame de Paris. Hugo was a pioneer of the Romantic Movement in literature, which stressed individual experience over classical themes. By Victor Hugo. Set in medieval Paris, it tells the story of the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda, condemned as a witch by the tormented archdeacon Claude Frollo.
The central idea of the festival was akin to a mock social revolution, in which power, dignity, and impunity are briefly conferred on those in a subordinate position a medieval successor to the Roman Saturnalia, which served a similar parodic function. Throughout the opening book, a jeering mob, made up mainly of students, shouts insults at ecclesiastical and university officials. The two ill-fated social outcasts meet a few days later when the kind-hearted Esmeralda offers Quasimodo water at the pillori to which he has been unjustly condemned.
Quasimodo was brought up by Frollo after being abandoned at birth and Esmeralda was raised as an orphan, only discovering her true mother later in the novel. In this, as well as in the final storming of the cathedral by the mob, the novel again makes oblique reference to the social upheavals that will shake France to its core in and again in And while dates for the celebration of Feast of Fools varied, it was more often held between Christmas and the Feast of the Circumcision January 1 than on the Epiphany January 6.
More importantly, the carnival-like elements of the Feast were the source of perpetual consternation to authorities from the late twelfth century onward.
It was forbidden under the severest of penalties at the Council of Basel in and again by the theological faculty of the University of Paris in While there are scattered instances of the event as late as the sixteenth century, there is little likelihood of a Feast of Fools taking place in the heart of Paris in Finally, Hugo does not distinguish, as most scholars today would, between mystery plays and morality plays.
Mystery plays originated in the twelfth century and staged stories from the Bible, accompanying them with antiphonal song. Morality plays grew out of mystery plays but were somewhat more secular and allegorical in nature and predominated in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. But Hugo freely admits that he strives for imaginative reconstruction rather than historical accuracy.
Hugo does this while recognizing the tensions that exist among the different classes. Hugo was determined to trace current social and political problems back to their medieval roots, and to achieve the maximum effect he must carefully embed his tale within a painstaking reconstruction of medieval Paris, its buildings and its public.
Minute details of the buildings, their arches and stained glass, are carefully described, all while the mob in the fifteenth century as in the nineteenth remains hopelessly oblivious to them. The original French title was Notre- Dame de Paris, with no special reference to the protagonist.
In fact, Hugo rebuked the first English translation of the title ; he felt it detracted from the cathedral and placed too much emphasis on the morbidity of Quasimodo. Frollo seems to revel in his complete transformation, in his rejection of everything he previously held true and dear. It is clear, then, that Frollo is a disturbed character, but to what what can we attribute his failings? The difficulty in assessing the archdeacon's culpability is that he is both the product of his age and the creator of his own destiny.
He is unable to express himself sexually because the Church forbids it and Frollo actively pursues such limitations on his freedom, through shutting himself off from the world and shunning the company of women.
His forays into alchemy, on the other hand, are evidence of his wish to test the limits of his imprisonment whilst avoiding a fuller exploration of his freedom.
It would be very easy to ascribe the blame for Frollo's actions to the Church which raised him and its misogynistic creed, but that interpretation simply cannot be made. Frollo's trajectory, then, can be seen as that of a man who exchanges the dogmas of Christianity for the tyrannical freedom of amorality, and in refusing to use his freedom to better mankind, meets his death.
By this point he has realised that he wants La Esmeralda more than anything else, and all his passion for alchemy and astrology has been transferred to this new object. Frollo's transformation, then, should not be seen as that of an asexual being developing sexuality, but rather of someone possessed of the creative fire beginning to expend that energy to fulfil sexual ends.
Hugo shows us, however, that there are other ways of applying one's energy to a more positive conclusion, and this is exhibited by the character of Quasimodo.
Richards, , p. Quasimodo Frollo's sexual awakening is bound up with that of his adopted son. Quasimodo begins the novel as a stone-like figure, constantly compared with the architecture of the cathedral he inhabits, and even seen as an extension of it. His only personal contact is with the father figure of Frollo, and so he has developed a sexualised mother-son relationship with Notre- Dame. The tear he sheds at receiving this pity is an apt metaphor for the awakening of his human, and therefore sexual, nature.
Commonly, we would understand dryness and coldness to represent sexual aridity — thus Quasimodo and Frollo both begin the novel in the cold, dry darkness of Notre-Dame—Frollo spends a great deal of his time in his dank chamber, and when he does confess his love to La Esmeralda, it is in an underground cell; moisture and warmth, therefore, are signs of life.
While Quasimodo and Frollo are both moved to transformation by La Esmeralda, they both adapt to their new selves in very different ways. While Frollo, the great controller, cannot help but view La Esmeralda as an object, Quasimodo, ever the servant, finds in the gypsy a way to be free. First, however, we must ask ourselves if the hunchback is sexually attracted to La Esmeralda. After her rescue from execution, she and Quasimodo engage in laconic conversation, and the hunchback covers his eyes as the gypsy dresses.
While Frollo invades La Esmeralda's privacy and forces her constantly to be on show see previous chapter , Quasimodo recognizes the gypsy's subjecthood. Aime moi!
When Frollo envisages himself as a sexual being, he takes desire too far, turning it into obsession and falling into darkness. Quasimodo, on the other hand, breaks through the barriers separating himself from society and ends the novel as a Hero, who has defended the one he loves to the best of his abilities and dies faithfully by the gypsy's side. Both Quasimodo and Frollo have played these respective roles for so long that they have become a part of their identities.
Quasimodo is subservient to Frollo even during La Esmeralda's aslyum in the cathedral, when Frollo harasses her in the night and Quasimodo 27 See, for instance, N. Further supporting this is the fact that he gives the gypsy a whistle to call him if she finds herself in danger. So while Quasimodo's transformation looks at first sight as if he has merely changed masters, the point is that he has chosen to serve another, and this indicates another difference between the hunchback and his master.
Deaf, mute, half-blind and chronically ugly, he is almost automatically excluded from sexual society. However, he is better placed to assume subjecthood than his master: as an orphan he has no natural parental authority to overthrow, just the overlordship of a man who proves himself increasingly unworthy of this role.
The turning point, as previously mentioned, is when La Esmeralda shows him compassion on the pillory. This act of compassion, freely given and with no ulterior motive, gives Quasimodo another figure in his life, which has henceforth been largely solitary.
The first act of compassion he received was his adoption, which Frollo effected as a dedication to his brother's soul. From the very beginning of their relationship, then, Quasimodo was an object to Frollo, and only by being treated as a subject by the gypsy could he actually grow into the role. Now a subject, in control of his life, Quasimodo is able to answer a question which pervades Notre-Dame de Paris.
How should we love? It is obvious that the type of love expressed by Frollo, which is brooding, objectifying and obsessive, is an inadequate answer. Given that the Divine Comedy is about Dante's salvation through the person of Beatrice, a development of the stilnovisto philosophy of love which resolves the question of love versus duty, it is not surprising that we should find it referenced in this novel. Jacoff, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, , p.
However, while Frollo treats the gypsy as an instrument of his pleasure, Quasimodo treats her as a person, and through this solidarity validates his subjecthood. He usually finds his own ugliness reflected in the eyes of the gypsy. He is beautiful in this moment because he is close to her and she does not shudder at the very sight of him. By not sexualizing his relationship with La Esmeralda, Quasimodo is able to relieve La Esmeralda of her need to perform, because her beauty has no need of exhibition.
This is the kind of love which Hugo advocates in Notre-Dame de Paris, the kind between two equal, and beautiful, subjects. While Quasimodo's asexuality is well established, however, the nature of the novel's female protagonist requires investigation. La Esmeralda While Frollo is barred from sexual society by his religious vows, and Quasimodo by his biological difformity, we find no such reason to exclude La Esmeralda.
And yet it is around her that the narrative's action revolves. She is no femme fatale, the ruin of men, like Matilda in The Monk and other female characters stretching back to Helen of Troy. She is the object of many men's desires, but there is no suggestion in the novel that she tries to elicit such feelings, or play upon her obvious attractiveness. Coupled with a timidity on the part of directors to present the churchman Frollo as such a predator, we can see that audiences in the 20th Century have been more prepared to accept a seductress than the truly innocent creature that Hugo has written.
To what extent can La Esmeralda be seen as a character fully aware of her sexuality? Her epiphany of realism was only a momentary descent to Earth for this dreamer. This streak of self-sacrifice, which is absent in the captain and in Gringoire, is the cause of her death, just as it is for Quasimodo.
It is interesting, then, that whereas Quasimodo and Frollo die because they transform and are unable to reconcile their internal contradictions, it is in fact La Esmeralda's refusal to change, to compromise sexually, which damns her. Two explanations of the gypsy's effect on Frollo need examination. Grossman, on the other hand, views the attraction as a father-daughter one. I think what Grossman is overstating here is Frollo's age.
Although the archdeacon is bald, angular, and precociously responsible for Jehan and then for Quasimodo , he is a man in his thirties. The age that the modern reader associates with Frollo is socially constructed — it is a way of separating Frollo from the object of his obsession to justify the taboo of the situation. In Hugo's time, the mere fact of Frollo's being a priest would be enough to establish this taboo.
In viewing it as father-daughter relationship, Grossman is overthinking the situation — Frollo is simply a relatively young man who finds himself stirred both sexually and philosophically by the dual taboo of the gypsy dancer, a beautiful and forbidden woman. In this sense, Baudouin's analysis, while it relies on a knowledge of the author not possible to every reader, is closer to the situation in the novel — the attraction of a man to a spectacle. La Esmeralda's sense of identity is tied up with her chastity—the shoe she keeps as an amulet could be read as a metaphor for the parental safeguarding of her virginity.
Regarded as a virtue at the time in which the novel was set, it has since lost its significance in a sexualized society.
At the time of the novel's publication, however, virginity was held in esteem and it is notable that Hugo, for all his bravery in tackling social norms, does not allow his virgin heroine to die deflowered.
Given the religious nature of the book, this may not be surprising — if La Esmeralda is a second 'Notre-Dame de Paris', then she must reflect the life of Mary.
And yet, given Hugo's belief that one must be sexual to be fully human, and given his later heroines' sexual natures such as Fantine, who becomes a prostitute and dies an angel , the reader may be uncomfortable with La Esmeralda's fate.
Hugo's ideal reader, writes Roche, is one who can understand the change in values that Europe was undergoing in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. They deserve consideration, however, because they paint a picture of the 15th-century France at odds with which the central characters find themselves.
This servant of philosophy is the truest example of sterility in the novel, not the fierce archdeacon. His punishment for this is not death but the stamp of mediocrity.
In this we could read a criticism of those for whom poetry is a profession and not a way of life. In Gringoire, then, Hugo shows us the creative paucity of the non-Romantic, the writer who sees the world as it is and not as it could be.
His engagement to Fleur-de-Lys follows social convention. His nocturnal trysts with the girls of the town is likewise something entirely expected of a man in his position. La Esmeralda imagines him as something more, however, and it is his absolute failure to meet her expectations that earns him our disdain; especially when compared with the transformation of Quasimodo, who out of desire for her becomes her protector and her final companion.
The French Revolution had gone some way to eroding the instruments of patriarchal power and attitudes to sex were becoming more liberal. The central character, if there is only one, is a priest whose vows prevent him from expressing himself sexually, instead seeking other forbidden knowledge in the form of alchemy and astrology.
The reader is unsure whether to attribute his obsessive behaviour to his starvation from sex and, by extension, the quasi-castration imposed on him by the conventions of his day, or whether the blame lies entirely within Frollo. It is my opinion that, given that Hugo endows the archdeacon with great creative power and freedom, it is bad faith which keeps him in thrall to the Church and its rules. In contrast, the hunchback Quasimodo, who is also denied the expression of his sexuality in his case by the cruelties of biology and a prejudiced society , instead turns his energy into a pure and self-sacrificing love.
In marking this contrast, Hugo shows the reader the true aim of the Romantic ideal and the best expression of freedom: not, as Frollo does, to objectify the outside world and pursue your own aims; but to see yourself as a being in and of the world who can act for yourself and for others. La Esmeralda is the catalyst for these two very different developments of Romantic freedom, and she achieves this without the exploitation of her sexuality, suggesting the importance of something deeper.
Something which 46 Grossman, , p. His is an objectifying view of the world, like that of Frollo — the pursuit of sex without thought of love — and though he is not moved to the villainy of the archdeacon, his indifference is still reproachable. Gringoire remains stoically outside the main trajectory of the plot, refusing to engage both sexually and emotionally with La Esmeralda, unable to perceive her suffering.
Notre-Dame de Paris. Paris: Pocket. HUGO, V. Preface to Odes et Ballades [online]. Preface to Cromwell [online].